Full stream ahead

May 17, 2013

Dolphin Geophysical has set its sights on doubling its fleet and its market share. Meg Chesshyre hears from CEO Atle Jacobsen and his team.

Dolphin Geophysical’s remarkable success, since it was established in late 2010, has been outlined by CEO Atle Jacobsen. He says that Dolphin had already become a sizeable player with a 5% market share, which it hoped to grow to 9% over the next couple of years. Revenues were US$221.3 million last year, up from $97.6 million in 2011, and were expected to be more than $300 million this year.

To help achieve this, Dolphin intends to double its fleet by 2015. It currently has two, high-end 3D seismic acquisition vessels on charter, Polar Duke and Polar Duchess, in addition to a mediumsized vessel, Artemis Arctic, and a 2D vessel, Artemis Atlantic. This year, Dolphin is taking on two, new, high-end 3D seismic vessels: the Sanco Swift, and the Geo Atlantic, from GC Rieber Shipping.

Sanco Swift, a 3250dwt newbuild, can accommodate 14 to 16 streamers and boasts a bollard pull capacity of about 200 tons, allowing it to tow large configurations. Sanco Swift will work half of the North Sea season this year with TGS-Nopec. It has a fixed term contract of five years, with two, three-year options to extend. 

GC Rieber’s Geo Atlantic, built in 2002, will be upgraded to tow 14 streamers at a yard in Singapore prior to delivery, which is expected to be in January 2014. Dolphin is chartering the vessel on a fixed contract of three and a half years, with additional options for two, two-year extensions. A second Sanco newbuild, Sanco Sword, is due for delivery in April 2014. It has a five-year contract with three, two-year options.

In addition, Dolphin has reached a further charter agreement with GC Rieber for a top-end, 22-streamer, 3D seismic newbuild vessel, working name Super Duke, with the highest ice-class. This will be constructed at Kleven Maritime in Norway, with delivery expected in March 2015. Its contract will be for five years plus two, three-year options. To support Dolphin’s chartered vessel capacity growth, an additional equity of $41 million was raised in February.

Dolphin reports that recent contract awards include a threeyear call-off agreement with Shell in Europe, a 3D survey for Genel in Morocco, a 3D assignment in the North Sea with Centrica, a further 3D project in Tanzania for Statoil, and a 3D assignment for Cairn Energy India off South Africa. In addition, OMV Petrom Romania has agreed a framework agreement, and Dolphin has two and half months’ 2D work for the Norwegian Petroleum Directorate this year following a successful season last year.

Phil Suter, Dolphin’s marketing and sales VP, comments: “These are exciting contracts, with great companies, in a range of geographical areas that offer some very promising exploration opportunities. We are expecting a busy period ahead in established European regions, such as the North Sea, and new territories along the African continent and beyond.” He highlights an 8000sq km survey Dolphin completed for Shell earlier this year off the west coast of South Africa, using the Polar Duchess in a restricted weather window of only four months. The Duchess towed a record-breaking, very wide spread – eight streamers, 8km long, separated by 200m, constituting a moving width of 1.4km of equipment and covering a surface area of 11.2 sq km. The survey was completed a week ahead of schedule, and during the survey Dolphin had 87% ‘golden days’ – defined by Shell as any day that has no HSE or technical interruptions.

Dolphin has a strong multi-client focus. It invested close to $60 million in multi-client projects in 2012 and is planning to invest $50-70 million this year. The initial focus is on the Barents Sea, the central North Sea, West Africa, and Brazil.

Johansen is optimistic about the market, and predicts continuing growth of typically 8-10% on the rate side. In 2011, the rates were $200,000-220,000/day for the big boats, 2012 produced rates of $250,000-280,000/day and this year capacity is being booked more than $300,000. Dolphin already has $150 million backlog going forward.

SHarp broadband

Dolphin Geophysical is to extend its 3D multi-client survey in the UK sector of the North Sea this year. The survey, which started in 3Q 2012, is the company’s first commercial project employing its SHarp broadband seismic method. Chief geophysicist, Dr Gareth Williams, says: “Broadband seismic gives oil companies a much better understanding of the subsurface, which significantly reduces drilling

That reduction of risk makes smaller fields in mature areas more economic, which is particularly relevant in the UK sector of the North Sea.”

The deep, flat cable used by SHarp makes it easier to perform amplitude analysis (AVO), pre-stack inversion, and reservoir characterization, all powerful methods for detecting hydrocarbons. AVO and inversion are well-known techniques, but by increasing the seismic bandwidth, SHarp is said to provide both a higher definition image and, crucially, a more accurate description of the rocks and fluids prior to drilling.

Williams describes the processing package as the only seismic processing package written and developed for the 21st century. “By combining acquisition and processing, SHarp is at the high-end of the seismic technology market. Some increase in bandwidth can be achieved using just processing, but to obtain the full benefit, the acquisition method must be updated as well. But it is the added capability of AVO and inversion, that really sets SHarp apart,” says Williams.

Dolphin says SHarp’s enhanced low and extended high frequencies (2Hz to 100Hz) provide greater penetration and higher resolution. The extra octave at low frequency enables imaging of subsalt, subbasalt and deep targets, for which standard seismic methods are insufficient. It is also compatible with 4D.

With no special equipment required, all of Dolphin’s vessels are capable of using SHarp. Processing begins onboard the vessels and is completed at its UK processing center in Tunbridge Wells. OE

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